Are you getting ready to launch into a life of BAM?
Over the past year, I have had the privilege of working alongside a new BAM startup. I recently asked my friend to share some lessons that she learned over her first year in business. Because she has never done BAM before, I thought it would be valuable for us to glean her insights as a new bammer!
So what are the 10 lessons?
1. A business degree OR a few years experience in the business world before doing BAM is non-negotiable…spoken by someone who has neither.
There’s enough to learn without having to learn the basics of business and accounting as well. I cannot stress this enough. Come well prepared. You will not regret learning from experts and having some of the basics under your belt before you are faced with learning business in a new culture. Take the time and get the education and experience.
2. Plan to use the resources of affordable experts like a web designer or Elance to fill in where you are weak in regard to the skills you need to start and run your business.
Delegation of these tasks to another company who will do an excellent job are essential to survival. Don’t be shy or hesitant to ask for help from friends as well! People are interested in investing for eternity and you are giving them the opportunity to do that.
3. A quality local accountant (or the equivalent) is priceless
– for accounting purposes, for knowing the laws for your business registration, etc. as well as for the relationship. Spend the time you need to find someone with integrity.
Your business reputation is a wonderful testimony of your relationship with Jesus.
You want to make sure that those who work with you stand for similar qualities even if they are not Christians.
4. A Few Practical Tips
– It doesn’t hurt to learn some language ahead of time, especially the language that your particular country uses in business…often this is not the same local language.
Know ahead of time how to deal with money, opening bank accounts, etc. in the country where you are moving – we had to wait 2 months for our banker’s check to clear and that made our money management very complicated for the first few months! We would have made different arrangements for our money transfer if we had known a banker’s check would cause a delay.
Also, know the visa requirements for your nationality and how they affect your priorities – my business partner could only get a one month visa and it was expensive, while mine was free and lasted 4 months. We knew we had to prioritize our lives around getting our business registered and our residency established right away before my business partner’s visa expired. The country was generous and allowed her to extend for a time knowing that we were waiting for our paperwork to be approved.
5. Be a Lifelong Learner.
Don’t ever think you are finished with language learning – you will always be learning…don’t ever think you are finished with cultural learning – you will always be learning. This applies to your business, your personal life, your relationships with local people, your relationships with team members and your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Don’t expect that you will get it all right! Learning from your mistakes brings value to them so that they are not wasted.
Settle into a lifestyle characterized by continuous learning.
6. Plan your day…and then watch the plan change…98% of the time.
In other words, it’s not wise (and can be somewhat frustrating) to hang on to the schedule that you decided ahead of time. It’s awesome if it works, it can also be awesome if it changes (which it probably will)…it depends on your perspective. God ordains every minute of our days. There are a lot of uncertainties and a lot of unknowns when starting a business in a foreign country. Don’t lose sight of the Truth that there is a greater purpose in how your days unfold. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
7. Make sure your finances are in order before you move.
This includes household finances, business finances, and transportation finances. There are enough challenges with this move without adding the challenge of financial pressures. Your home will be your respite, so set it up well.
There are always hidden costs in the process of registering your business and with start up costs.
Make sure you go with the entire amount of your capital ready. Although the taxi culture is one worth your time and investment, eventually you will need the time saver of your own vehicle. Make sure the finances are there and ready when that moment comes.
8. Be aware that you go with assumptions and presuppositions that you will not discover until you are in the midst of learning another culture.
You will be surprised and awed many times over by what you see and how you feel and react – embrace the new culture, don’t criticize it or make fun of it. “Different” is not the same as “wrong”. Learning to appreciate and accept will benefit you immensely.
If you don’t remember anything else in this blog write-up, remember the next two!!!…
9. Your time with the Lord is essential to finding your new “world” and your new belonging.
Never ever neglect it. Nothing is more important and nothing can substitute for it. It will enable you to have His perspective, which is right and which is far greater than yours or anyone else’s. You need a solid relationship with the Lord that you can maintain by yourself as many places do not have resources to do this for you.
10. Everything revolves around eternity.
Have an eternal attitude about EVERYTHING!!! Even the mundane tasks – keep eternity in the forefront of your mind.
Build relationships in the process of setting up the business…avoid being solely task oriented and thinking everything needs to be run efficiently…see the process as an opportunity to integrate into the culture…remember that anytime you could be removed from the country (whether it’s the country’s decision or a family issue or health or otherwise) and you will want to know that everything you did, regardless of what it was, you did for eternity.
View your entire life as time for eternity, regardless of what you are doing and what the particular challenges are for the day.
Without that perspective, there are plenty of chances for extreme frustration and being overwhelmed. Stepping back and remembering Who is in control brings a peaceful perspective to an otherwise very unsettling moment. Seeing the people you are interacting with as those who need a Savior is also essential – whether or not they are treating you with respect or with hostility.